Wednesday, 9 February 2011
Egypt, once again is on fire. Is it a revolution by the dissatisfied local people, a manifestation of overdue transfer of power from a long-sitting iron-fisted ruler to his chosen offspring or outside influences fomenting up trouble in order to secure and further their own strategic interests? Will the courage of a people, defying death and torture and against much odds succeed in changing the stream of an ancient civilization, once again?
Is the inspiration of Poland’s Solidarity movement or Ukraine’s Orange Revolution about to change Egypt in a new direction or will it just fizzle out while the world gasps in the short span of 21st century media attention?
Egypt does matter, even if one chooses not to care. The Suez Canal, in Egyptian territory, handles about 10% of the entire shipping of the world. Closing it would add 12 days to Saudi tankers taking oil to Houston, Texas or add 57% shipping costs to France.
Let’s take a look at all the parties involved.
President Hosni Mubarak, the 82-year-old fourth military president of the Arab Republic of Egypt with 79 million people has been in office since 1981. He has kept Egypt under emergency rule for all the years.
Rampant corruption, imprisoning political opponents (especially young voices) without trials and unconditional arrests with tortures – the standard tricks of dictators, all abound in Mubarak’s Egypt. Transparency International claims that Egypt stays at the weak position 111 out of 180 countries in the corruption index. 30% of Egyptians are below 25 years of age. 90% of Egypt’s unemployed are the young. Mubarak dismissed the government, appointed the former Air Force chief Ahmed Shafik as prime minister. Omar Suleiman, called by Daily Telegraph one of the ”The Most Powerful Spy Chiefs in the world” as his vice president.
Mubarak probably understands that at 82, his time is over. His henchmen, dependent on his power and significant wealth wouldn’t like him to go. So, his interest is a transfer of power to his son. This worked fine in Syria. That not being possible, another option is to empower someone else as a proxy, and then the son steps in later. This way the current foreign powers supporting his regime are satisfied, agitators go home and life goes on. For Mubarak, the most likely but worst case scenario is having to step down. Then, he has to secure a deal from the next ruler/s that he and his clan will be immune from prosecution as Boris Yeltsin got an assurance from Vladimir Putin of Russia in 1999, and which Putin honoured.
Kefaya/Kifaya (meaning ”enough”) the Egyptian Movement for Change (el-Haraka el-Masreyya men agl el-Taghyeer) is a grassroots level coalition, which includes Nasserites, Islamists, Liberals, Marxists, Secularists as well as non-political sections of the population, especially the youth. Their chief concern is to stem the corruption and prevent a transfer of power to President Hosni Mubarak’s son Gamal Mubarak so that there is real change in Egypt.
The largest and oldest Islamic political group in the world, which began in Egypt in 1928, is involved in extensive social work and is vocally opposed to violence and terrorism. Their goal is to establish the Qur’an and Sunnah (refers to the sayings and living habits of Prophet Muhammad) to cover all aspects of Muslim individual, family, community and state life in Egypt. They also strongly believe that Western Civilization is fast declining and Islamic civilization will strengthen to achieve its manifest destiny in an empire possibly spanning from Spain to Indonesia.
Naturally, all pro-Western corrupt regimes in these countries have to make way to an Islamic Caliphate. The movement is banned in Egypt though their candidates won 20% of all seats in the 2005 elections as independents.
Egyptian Facebook group started by Ahmed Maher and Ahmed Salah to support workers in El-Mahalla El-Kubra, who were planning a strike on April 6th. This soon gathered 70 000 mostly educated young non-political members, who were concerned about free speech, nepotism and corruption of the regime and the stagnant economy in Egypt.
A loose group of different sections of society, especially the young educated desiring to change Egypt. Mohamed ElBaradei, the former director the International Atomic Energy Agency and 2005 Nobel Peace Prize winner founded it. Their main goals are constitutional reform, fair elections, transparency in governance and free press.
Israel is very scared that a new regime might not honour the peace treaty Egypt has with Israel and set a very bad example. Iran is extremely anxious to get their way of living, seeing and doing things catch on in Egypt. China, very concerned about access to Egypt’s resources and strategic position promptly restricted coverage of Egyptian protests in their media and blocked searches of “Egypt”. With similar vested interests EU, India, Japan and Western nations do what they are best at doing in such situations, express concern and talk about a peaceful resolution to the situation. The Russian leaders gain points from their own people as they express huge concern for Russians living in Egypt.
As supporters of President Mubarak’s regime, USA is deeply involved and been accused of meddling, primarily by people who accuse them of meddling every time something disturbing happens. Ralph Nader in The Guardian rather naughtily suggests that the US response is a standard pattern. As with Ceausescu, Marcos, Duvalier and Suharto, Washington maintains support until the alliance becomes untenable, then Washington hails the overthrow, all the while ensuring that the next regime will continue as before.
Nobody has, to date, accused North Korea, Wikileaks, the IMF, Doku Umarov – the Chechen separatist or the Al-Qaeda as being responsible for what is happening in Egypt.